Academic journal article Ethnic Studies Review

The Apartheid Conscience: Gender, Race, and Re-Imagining the White Nation in Cyberspace

Academic journal article Ethnic Studies Review

The Apartheid Conscience: Gender, Race, and Re-Imagining the White Nation in Cyberspace

Article excerpt

It is not just that the limits of our language limit our thoughts; the world we find ourselves in is one we have helped to create, and this places constraints upon how we think the world anew.

David Theo Goldberg

American equality began as an oxymoron. Although American nationalism is dedicated to the proposition of freedom, liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness, this proposition originally extended exclusively to a circumscribed community determined by race. While citizenship is now defined by more equitable means, racial inequality remains the norm. This is clear in a variety of ways but is especially visible spatially in that race continues to provide the organization of U.S. urban geography. Forty years after the striking down of thejim Crow laws that legalized segregation, self-segregation is ensuring that cities in the United States remain the "most racially segregated urban areas in the world." Despite massive racial changes following the civil rights movement and the contemporary widespread acceptance of multiculturalism, massive segregation persists. As Jessie Daniels writes, whereas statistically whites are contemporarily more likely to be tolerant of racial diversity, "white people vote with their moving vans" whenever people of color represent more than seven percent of the population in their neighborhood. David Goldberg shows that residential racial segregation has persisted despite massive demographic shifts, from the creation of urban ghettos in the 1950s and 60s and white flight to the suburbs, followed by white "urban renewal" programs resulting in gentrification of those same urban spaces and a movement of color to the suburbs.

Such racial segregation has always characterized U.S urban geography. The United States legally condoned racial segregation from its founding through the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's. The Jim Crow laws, put in place after the abolition of slavery to defend all-white businesses, schools, and neighborhoods, were not struck down until the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although today no national laws define the relationship between race and residence, statistically segregation remains the rule. Acknowledging California as emblematic of the country, Dale Maharidge writes that California's "white communities form 'islands' that are surrounded by vast ethnic or transitional communities." Such elaborate racial segregation requires widespread participation and intricate organization. Although a variety of institutional phenomenon exacerbate the problem of segregation, the most significant factor continues to be informal pressure by whites to maintain white neighborhoods. It is important to ask what secures this investment by whites to participate in segregation and other racially exclusive practices. Why, despite the increasingly racially tolerant beliefs by whites and the public embrace of multiculturalism and condemnation of racism does the racial "melting pot" of America continue to reproduce virtually all-white spaces?

David Goldberg asserts that such extreme racial segregation is a product of the modern West. He argues that racial apartheid is far from only a South African phenomenon and attempts "to show just how deep a certain kind of experience of racial marginality runs in 'the West'." Although the term "apartheid" was created to describe the specifically South African system of legalized racial segregation the idea it was based on, of keeping races physically apart, is prevalent throughout the West. While South African apartheid was extreme in the level of violence employed to enforce segregation, the United States also clearly practiced its own similar version of segregation that could also be referred to as apartheid. As a tour through any major U.S. city will show, American apartheid continues today, but is now enforced by other means than jurisprudence. …

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